Prague producer slash composer dné makes blissed out compositions that will leave you happy-sad
To quote Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s Footnote to Howl, “The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole are holy!” Basically, “everything is holy! everybody's holy!”, including Ondrej Holy aka composer/producer dné.
Prague-based Holy has spent the past five years—that’s 1825 days— working his way through serious creative blocks and health setbacks to write his debut album, These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere.
The result is a record that builds lush, melancholic instrumental soundscapes around a core of handclaps and piano. Track titles like “Asos Model Crush” transform the mundane into poetic personal observations, as Holy samples everyday sounds and elevates all the small things in life into beautifully chilled compositions.
dné by Valentýna Janů
You have dedicated five years to writing your album, what took you so long?
I had a major crisis between 2010 to 2013, I couldn’t finish a song. I struggled really hard to find the sound that I wanted. The endless possibilities were making me sick. So I thought of two sounds that work all the time—piano and human clap—and based the album on them.
And yet the record has a lot of texture!
I love organic beats and background noises. Once I was watching this Japanese porno and fell in love with the beautiful piano chords in the opening scene.
The minute I heard them I knew I wanted to hide them somewhere in the album—they ended up in the song “Driving a Car While Listening To Bill Burr’s Podcast”. That’s the great thing about Japanese porn, there’s no cheesy music, it’s always very pretty and clean. Also there’s a lot of time before something happens which is great for collecting sounds—people walking, closing doors, washing dishes, putting them back into the cupboard.
Stream full album "These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere"
How would you describe your album?
It’s on the border between “pretty” and “the good kind of sad”. If you feel a tear coming, it will be a happy one, I promise.
There’s something touching, honest, and poetic about the track titles on your album too.
Every title means something real. “Reality Swallows Pusheen Cats” for example, describes the feelings and process of talking to somebody online, receiving signals, and thinking the other person is interested in you, eventually meeting IRL and realizing things are not that hot. There were other titles that didn’t make the cut, like “From The Waist Up” and “Drama In Slow Motion” [laughs].
Tracks like “Driving A Car While Listening to Bill Burr’s Podcast”, suggest that you’re a fan of comedians. Who is the funniest person alive?
For me, it’s always been Louis CK.
What’s life like in Prague?
I love living in Prague, it’s the only place in Czech Republic I could live in. On the other hand, Prague is a pretty small city, and after some time you realize you have just built yourself a comfortable social bubble. From time to time I like to leave the bubble, to be aware of what’s outside. Then I go right back, I know what I like.
What other Prague-based music acts should we be checking out? Are there any artirsts or producers that you’re tight with, like a musical fam?
Yeah, our clique is tight. There is no hostility, we root for each other—or pretend we do—very well. Dominik aka Slowmotiondancer is great, he cuts my hair, I play drums for his live shows. Mayen have strong melodies and sharp looks, you can’t ask for much more. Aid Kid or FVLCRVM have major producing skills. Selektiv Mutism do relevant dark techno tracks. Things are happening.
How have your health issues affected or informed your music?
A bit of context, I have a rare type of Muscular Dystrophy (calpain-3). MD means your body is unable to maintain muscles, or only in a limited amount, so you are losing them. There are many types of MD, mine is somewhere close to severity. I got a wheelchair when I was 20, now I am 30. I am ok for now, I live on my own,
dné performing "Asos Model Crush"
Directed by Martin Lamberty
Sound - Fabian Langer
Filmed in Prague, July 2016.
I can take care of myself and drive a car. I can still walk a little. Thing is, I am getting weaker everyday and with this natural progression there is a chance that in five years my hands will get weak to the point that I will not be able to play any instrument. This used to haunt me during my years of crisis; music is the only meaningful thing I do, what if my body doesn’t let me?
How has it shaped your perspective on life in general?
I am as happy and sad as anybody else.
Published 2017, Majestic Journal, Print Issue 1
Written by Russell Dean Stone